Probably the hottest coaching seat in the ACC the past few years opened up as Virginia fired Al Groh. Groh, just like Mark Snyder, was coaching at his alma mater, and was struggling. In his nine seasons as head coach the Cavaliers went 85-93, including a dismal 1-8 against rival Virginia Tech. Although many of his former assistants moved on to become head coaches, Groh's own success was not enough.
The biggest head coaching change so far has been the firing of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Weis, a Notre Dame alum, has been under much scrutiny this year after what many thought could be at worst a 10 win season turned into a 6-6 disappointment. This led to his termination after a 35-27 record in 5 seasons, leaving Weis with a .565 winning percentage. This winning percentage is lower than Weis's predecessor Tyrone Willingham and Willingham's predecessor Bob Davie.
Now comes the fun part: who should the candidates for these open jobs be? Here's what I think
Terry Bowden, Northern Alabama HC - Terry has ties to the state of West Virginia, having played for the Mountaineers from 1977-78. Bowden could be able to recruit against the likes of Southern Miss and Tulsa, and one would think that he wants to make the jump back to FBS. Marshall may not be Florida State, but it's definitely a step up for this Bowden.
Dennis Franchione, former Texas A&M HC - The C-USA can be either where head coaches rise to fame, such as Houston's Kevin Sumlin or Southern Miss's Larry Fedora, or where former greats go to end their careers, such as UTEP's Mike Price and SMU's June Jones. This makes Franchione a possibility. Franchione was very successful in his tenures at non BCS schools, going 58-46 at New Mexico and TCU. Franchione's only head coaching job east of the Mississippi River didn't go to well (a short two year stint at Alabama), but I still think that he could lead the Thundering Herd to contention in the C-USA.
Jim Donnan, former Marshall HC - Donnan was the head coach when the Thundering Herd had five consecutive 11-plus win seasons and in 1992 won the Div I-AA national championship. The success that Marshall had under Donnan has yet to be matched. Sure, Donnan has been out of coaching for almost ten years, but I think that at 64 years old he can still get the job done.
Jeff Mullen, West Virginia OC - This has all the makings to work. He's in state, he's young, and he's been fairly successful. What Marshall desperately needs is a young coach who can recruit and rebuild the Thundering Herd. Jeff Mullen might be the guy they need.
Steve Kragthorpe, former Louisville HC - Although Kragthorpe might not look like such a good candidate coming off a dismal run at Louisville, I believe he really is. Kragthorpe had huge success in the C-USA, taking a Tulsa team that was 1-11 the year prior to his arrival and brought them to their first bowl game since the 1991 Freedom Bowl. Kragthorpe will not be a head coach that other schools will be dying to get, which in turn could save Marshall some money. If Kragthorpe is hired at Marshall, I guarantee he would make up for his disappointment as the Cardinals head coach.
Mike London, Richmond HC - Say what you want about Al Groh's coaching career, but one thing for sure is that he has had excellent assistants. Mike London was the defensive coordinator who replaced Al Golden, and after just two seasons he moved on to Richmond to become the Spiders head coach. It didn't take long for London to find success as a head coach, winning the FCS championship in his first season and posting an 11-1 record so far this season. London's Spiders did something that Groh's Cavs weren't able to do this season: beat Duke. This alone makes Mike London a prime candidate to replace his former boss.
Bud Foster, Virginia Tech DC - It's no secret that Foster wants a head coaching job, as he interviewed for the Clemson position last year. How great would it be if he went to his current team's rival to become head coach? Defensive Coordinator for the Hokies since '95, nobody can argue that Foster cannot get the job done. It's just getting the job offered that seems to be the issue. Even though Foster is only 50 years old, he has the coaching experience of someone older than that. Virginia would be crazy to not try and steal Foster away from VT.
Ron Prince, Virginia special teams coach - Prince, just like Groh's other assistants mentioned above, left Virginia to pursue head coaching jobs elsewhere. However, Prince's did not turn out as expected. After just three seasons at Kansas State, Prince was fired with a 17-20 record. I didn't see the firing as ever justified, and I still believe something was held a secret. I believe that Prince is a good coach, and although he wouldn't be the first person I would call, he would definitely be someone to consider.
Tommy Bowden, former Clemson HC - It seems repetitive to keep throwing out the same former head coaches for these jobs, but I believe Tommy Bowden is still qualified to be a head coach. Bowden has never had a losing season as a college football head coach, something most Clemson fans wouldn't let you know. At 55 years old, Tommy has it in his blood to coach until his 80s. I don't believe anyone could criticize Virginia if they hired Tommy Bowden as their next head coach.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma HC - Stoops, a Roman Catholic, has gotten more heat then ever before at Oklahoma after three straight bowl losses and a 7-5 record this year. If I was Stoops, I wouldn't even answer Notre Dame's calls, but it has been reported by some that Stoops is interested. I have also heard that Stoops-to-Notre Dame is "a done deal". I don't know if that part's true or not, but I do know this: Notre Dame desperately needs a proven head coach and someone that can rebuild their horrible defense. Stoops, who has a record of 115-29 as head coach and was a Defensive Coordinator for eight years before becomining the Sooners head coach, looks like a perfect fit.
Brian Kelly, Cincinnati HC - Let's face it: The Bearcats don't get enough publicity, resulting in their lack of support for the National Title contention. Cincinnati is very small compared to Notre Dame in the aspect of the national spotlight, yet Kelly has made the Bearcats annual contenders while the Fighting Irish are an also-ran team. With all of this in mind, I believe that Brian Kelly at Notre Dame would be a match made in heaven.
Skip Holtz, East Carolina HC - This would be great in the media aspect for Notre Dame. Anyone remember the last time a Holtz was roaming the sidelines? It worked out pretty well. This would be the kind of stuff everyone wants to see at some point in time: Shane Beamer as the head coach at Virginia Tech, Derek Dooley at Georgia, and Skip Holtz at Notre Dame. "Well", you may say, "What's in a Name?" Just because he's a Holtz doesn't mean he is a good head coach." Wrong. He has a 67-44 record as a head coach at both UConn and East Carolina and last year lead the Pirates to a C-USA title. Notre Dame, which is Skip's alma mater and where he was once the QB Coach and offensive coordinator, would be crazy not to consider Lou's son.
Urban Meyer, Florida HC - How could you not go after Meyer? A former WR coach at ND and a devout Roman Catholic, Meyer is arguably the best head coach in college football right now. Notre Dame is no longer at the level it was in the late 80s and early 90s, and it will take a proven winner like Meyer to turn it around. I see there being only one issue in calling up Urban Meyer and offering him the job: Getting him to answer your call.
Tony Dungy, former Colts HC - If Notre Dame landed Dungy I would be singing their praises forever. Dungy, a man who I feel has been one of the greatest NFL coaches of my time, is still young enough to have a lot of coaching ahead of him. How do you think bringing a Super Bowl winning head coach in to South Bend would affect recruiting? They would be in the top 5 in recruiting almost every year he would be there. However, Dungy has only one year of college coaching experience, when he was a defensive backs coach at Minnesota. Still, you cannot argue against going after a former head coach with the numbers that Tony Dungy has.